Well it's a brave new year and what are people up to? Twitter and iPhone Mania, mostly. Funny thing is how both of them suffer from bad telcos here in Australia!


You must have heard of Twitter by now... If not, it's the latest craze for social networking. Twitter sits somewhere between IRC, IM, blog comments and moblogging. The basis of Twitter is (supposed to be) the question "what are you doing right now?". You answer the question - possibly in the third person - and your friends can tune in and see what you're up to.

Unsurprisingly, people start responding to each other and the result is rather like IRC without the netsplits. My perception is probably skewed since Molly observes that the Auspack uses Twitter like IRC more than others tend to.

So anyway, you can post and receive short status messages via the web form, your chat client or your mobile phone (hence the short message length - to facilitate text messaging). Twitter can follow you everywhere! Well unless you're in Perth, that is.

The Perth port80 crew had a meetup tonight which was notably quiet on the Twitter front. On their return to their PCs, they reported that their mobile Twitter posts were being blocked by the telcos - apparently the volume of traffic is causing the gateways to refuse the messages (rumours suggest intentionally, but there's no official word).

Much grumbling about telcos ensues!


The iPhone has been announced to an overly-enthusiastic Macworld crowd (too many espressos maybe?). People are raving about it, which is a little amusing for a phone that is yet to pass its FCC application! Note the tiny text at the bottom of the page: This device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.

Considering the usual lag to the Australian market, Aussies won't be packing iPhones for at least 12 months. The most optimistic TV spot just said "sometime next year". I've also heard that they will only work with Telstra, so it's unlikely that any of its features will be cheap (Telstra is not known for generous pricing after all).

Add to that the US$599 price tag - AUD$768 if the price isn't hiked - and it's likely to remain a fairly exclusive toy. It might not even look quite so cool by the time it gets here - a 2mp camera really isn't that much to write home about, for example. Plus, 8gigs may not go such a long way if people start packing in the multimedia.

That said, hopefully the iPhone will still have a major positive effect on the market: it might raise expectations. Love them or hate them, iPods raised the bar for music players. 512megs or 1gig no longer cut it and suddenly personal music players became really useful as companies scrambled to catch up.

The iPhone could do this for mobile phone handsets. As well as being a phone, it is a viable music player and web browser. With a real web browser and wifi capability, you don't even have to crawl along on WAP; you can use real websites.

Let's hope that public wifi takes on in Australia by the time the iPhones get here, of course. Currently you'd be lucky to get wifi anywhere other than your home, particularly since most workplace wifi requires VPN software - blocking devices like the Sony PSP. Mind you, with OSX running the show perhaps the iPhone will support VPN.

I also wonder if the Safari install will use handheld stylesheets if they are available? Getting some support for the handheld media type would be a boon for mobile web content in general. At the moment it is still not seriously worth creating a handheld stylesheet since so few mobile devices honour them.

the more things change?

I came across a great quote today which seems quite appropriate: One must make a pessimistic analysis of the situation, but when it's time for action, one must act with hope. - Gramsci

So, right now we have telcos which are pricing innovation out of the market, or blocking standard services (SMS) when people use them in new ways. As I said in December, the cost of telecommunications is choking their own future in Australia.

I will act with hope however and look for positives.

We can hope that a really popular mobile web device could drive up demand and prompt telcos to adjust their pricing strategies. We can hope that the spread of wifi-capable devices will inspire more free public hotspots or cheap private hotspots like cafes. We can hope that devices like the iPhone and services like Twitter will raise consumer awareness and have more people asking telcos for a better deal.

Here's hoping 2007 is a good year for mobile connectivity.

...and now I have to go Twitter some more.